Praise and the Tao



Among some monks a great discussion broke out regarding Taoism, that centered around a hypothetical question, a proposed response, and its insight to the Tao. The story is that a learned Taoist Master is told by another that he is very wise. How would the enlightened Master respond to the speaker? And how does his response reflect the Great Tao?


This set them off on rampant speculation, conjecture, and theories to provide their own “right” answer. Great thought was given to what was offered:


One stated the Master would readily see that all praise contains some criticism, and all criticism some praise. He would thus admonish the speaker for offering it at all.


The next stated a great man of te would not seek or admonish praise. He would accept it with thanks and move on.


Another argued that saying anything was acknowledgement of the praise, something that the Master would not seek or value, so therefore the Master would say nothing and continue on.


The next argued that saying nothing was rude. A thoughtful man of te would never dismiss someone so respectful without a word. But offered no solution as to what the Master would say.


Eventually their own sensei passed by and they inquired of their Master just how he would solve such a riddle of the Tao. After listening to each of their theories, he spoke with great confidence:


‘First, the only correctness to any answer is what we perceive to be a greater truth or insight into the Tao. Yet, the Tao cannot be defined or quantified, and avoids being measured against. It also cannot be copied. There is no easy way to right action or thought. There are no rules to be applied. In fact, the Tao teaches us that goodness and piety arise spontaneously from being in harmony with the unfolding world around us.’


‘That being said, I proffer his respectful answer would be, “As are you”. This avoids the rudeness of not speaking at all. It neither encourages nor admonishes the praise or the speaker. It does not offer thanks for something so petty as praise. It recognizes that praise and criticism exist in each other and treats them both identically. He recognizes the wisdom in the speaker, as well as, the folly in himself.’


With that he turned and continued his day.




7 Responses to “Praise and the Tao”
  1. Jim Borden says:

    seems like the perfect response.

  2. Dustin Kemp says:

    You are very wise.

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